- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 24, 2004

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams defended his administration yesterday against a report that the city has struggled to spend enough on the poor while management costs continue to rise.

“On one hand people call me tax-and-spend … and other people say I’m being too stingy,” the Democratic mayor said at his weekly news briefing. “That’s part of being mayor.”

The report, compiled by the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, noted that D.C. taxpayer funding for employment services has declined 80 percent since 1990, affordable housing by 54 percent, human services by 33 percent and mental health by 21 percent.

At the same time, funds for three city agencies — the Chief Financial Office, the Office of the Inspector General, and the Corporation Counsel Office — have risen 34 percent.

Mr. Williams, a Democrat, said he disagreed with the methodology used to compile the report.

“You can’t just look at percentages,” he said. “A big percentage increase could be on a very small pot of money. It’s the overall pot of money and its share of the budget. And human service is paid a big, big part of this.”

Most of the increases occurred after 1996 and appear to reflect efforts after the District’s fiscal crisis of the mid-1990s and its efforts to improve management of the city government, according to the report.

The same period also saw an explosion in the number of high-paying management jobs in city government. The Washington Times reported last year that 575 city employees earned at least $100,000, compared with one $100,000 employee a decade earlier.

Meanwhile, Mr. Williams plans to submit a $4.2 billion budget for 2005 to the D.C. Council on Monday. The budget would increase total spending by $345 million.

According to a draft of the plan circulated among council members, the budget calls for $93 million in increased taxes and fees as part of a plan to close a projected gap of more than $250 million from spending at current levels.

Among the expenses that would be passed on to D.C. residents would be increases in licensing and registration charges for vehicles, as well as higher fees for residential parking permits and parking meters. The city also plans to add more automated traffic-enforcement cameras.

Mr. Williams spoke generally about his budget plans yesterday.

“It’s really not in final form. It’s still in draft,” he said. “I will say, as a general matter, I have tried to minimize broad increases in taxes wherever possible, and I think I have done that. I have tried to distribute the pain equally, and I think I am in the process of doing that.”

D.C. Council Chairman Linda Cropp, at-large Democrat, said that from what she has seen so far, the budget has an “excellent chance of faring pretty well with the council.”

“It doesn’t mean that we’re just going to approve it,” Mrs. Cropp said, but she praised the mayor for consulting with council members before cutting citizen services.

But D.C. Council member Adrian Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat, said he is concerned that too much of a burden would be passed on to D.C. residents and that spending should be limited before new taxes and fees are imposed.

“Spending is just too much,” he said. “It’s just creating a budget problem in the future.”

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